Take 3: The King and I (1956) Review

For the Fourth Broadway Bound Blogathon, I chose to review the 1956 version of The King and I! Years ago, I had seen the 1999 animated adaptation of the musical. Since I vaguely remember it, I can’t provide an honest opinion of that movie. Because I had only seen pieces of the 1956 film and because it was recommended to me by Maddy from Maddy Loves Her Classic Films, I now found a good excuse to finally check the film out! While I knew the play itself was successful, I was surprised to discover it had won a Tony award. As this year’s blogathon focuses on Tony winners, it gave me an opportunity to learn something new. This is one of the reasons why I love participating in blogathons! Now, let’s start this review of 1956’s The King and I!

The King and I (1956) poster created by 20th Century-Fox.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Deborah Kerr is a dramatic actress, as her strengths can be seen in drama films. Because there were plenty of dramatic moments in The King and I, this allowed the best of Deborah’s acting abilities to be placed on display! In scenes that allowed Anna to stand up to King Mongkut, Deborah adopts a serious persona without any sarcasm. Her tone of voice is stern, while also standing up straight and looking directly at King Mongkut. Because there were light-hearted moments as well, it gave Deborah an opportunity to incorporate humor into her performance. This balance made the role suit Deborah well! This is the first time I had ever seen any of Yul Brynner’s performances. However, I was quite impressed by his portrayal of King Mongkut of Siam! Similar to Deborah Kerr’s role, there was a good balance of drama and comedy. In a scene where King Mongkut is talking to his son about what he learned in school, Yul speaks with a serious tone of voice. He also moved around the set with a posture that reflects his character’s royal power. However, when he introduced Anna to his children, King Mongkut would make silly faces in order to get them to smile. Before watching The King and I, the only film of Rita Moreno’s I had seen is West Side Story. Because of this, it was interesting to see Rita work with different material. While Anita, Rita’s character in West Side Story, is sassy and confident, Tuptim is more reserved and sensitive. When Rita didn’t have speaking lines, facial expressions and body language helped convey what Tuptim was thinking. As I liked her portrayal of Tuptim, it makes me wish Rita had appeared in more scenes.

The musical numbers: A musical is only as good as its musical numbers. With The King and I, I found the musical numbers to be entertaining! The most interesting one is the Siamese interpretation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Because Tuptim is reading a copy Anna gave her, she decides to write a play based on her own version of the novel. This particular number features traditional dancing, stylized face masks, and practical effects, such as a white sheet representing ice. It served as a good example of how everyone can view a text differently. The rest of the musical numbers in The King and I ranged from dramatic to comedic. One of them is ‘Getting to Know You’. In this scene, Anna dances with one of King Mongkut’s wives. Some of the children circled around their mother in order to mimic Anna’s skirt. This was a simple way humor was incorporated into some of the musical numbers.

The costume design: The King and I is known for being an elaborate musical, with elegance being found within the costume design. Bright colors were worn by almost all the characters. In a scene where Anna is introduced to King Mongkut’s children, the children’s outfits featured hues of pink, red, and green. The members of the royal family sometimes wore plaid, which complimented the rich color palette of the movie. Metals like gold could also be seen in the royal family’s attire. Some of King Mongkut’s jackets featured gold embroidery, a reminder of his wealth and affluence. Bronze coated the children’s headpieces as well. With the costume design being so exquisite, I wonder how much of this movie’s budget was devoted to it?

The Fourth Broadway Bound Blogathon banner created by Rebecca from Taking Up Room.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The under-utilization of Rita Moreno: As I mentioned earlier, the only film of Rita’s I had seen is West Side Story. Therefore, I was looking forward to seeing her performance in The King and I. I was disappointed to see Rita’s talents under-utilized. In this two hour and thirteen-minute movie, Rita appeared in a handful of scenes. While she did participate in the story’s musical components, she was only given one duet and the narration during the Uncle Tom’s Cabin play. I understand The King and I was released five years before West Side Story. But if the 1961 film has taught me anything, it’s how Rita is, talent wise, capable of so much more.

Drawn out storylines: The storylines in The King and I were drawn out because of the film’s two hour and thirteen-minute run-time. King Mongkut’s story, where he attempts to save his reputation, is one example. For about half the movie, King Mongkut wants to prevent other world leaders from thinking he is “barbaric”. Since this particular storyline lasted for so long, the resolution/payoff was fine, but somewhat anti-climactic. Lun Tha and Tuptim’s storyline took place throughout the whole movie. However, by the end of the film, it was left unresolved. It makes me wonder if it would have been resolved if The King and I’s run-time had been shorter?

Songs interrupting the story: In a typical musical, the musical numbers help progress the story forward. But in The King and I, the musical numbers interrupt the over-arching story, causing the transition between story and song to feel less seamless. After an elegant party at the palace, King Mongkut discovers Tuptim is missing. King Mongkut’s search is disrupted by Anna singing ‘Shall We Dance?’. This then turns into a private dance between Anna and King Mongkut, which is interrupted by a guard. The guard informs King Mongkut that Tuptim has been found. Moments like this one cause the story to pause for the sake of a musical number.

String of musical notes image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/pentagram-vector_710290.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a> <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Backgroundvector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

So far, I have seen four of Deborah Kerr’s movies. Out of those titles, I’d say The King and I is her best one! As I said in my review, the material complimented her acting abilities. There was enough drama to show off her strengths, while also having enough comedy to let Deborah have fun with the role. The film gave me a chance to see interesting performances and musical numbers, from Rita’s portrayal of Tuptim to a Siamese interpretation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The exquisite costume design and sets are definitely photogenic, highlighting the wealth and power within the royal family. Even though the movie as a whole is good, there are musicals I would choose over it. The songs interrupting the story instead of progressing it forward is one reason why I feel this way. I’ve heard Anna and the King is a non-musical version of this particular story, so I’d be interested in seeing how lack of musical numbers affects the overall story-telling. I’d also be interested in watching Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner’s other film, The Journey.

Overall score: 7.7 out of 10

What are your thoughts on The King and I? Which version is your favorite? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun on Broadway!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Review

Yes, I’m at it again. I’m participating in another Genre Grandeur! After a brief hiatus in October, I was ready to take on whatever challenge came my way. For November, the theme was chosen by David from Blueprint Review. In this Genre Grandeur, they wanted participants to talk about Hong Kong Martial Arts Movies. Whatever movie I picked, I knew this would be a special review. That’s because this is the first time I’ve ever reviewed a martial arts film! To figure out which movies qualified of this event, I searched for possible titles on the internet. One of the most well-known films that I saw on one list was Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Over the years, I have heard of this movie. But I had never gotten around to watching it. Now, because of MovieRob and David, I finally have an excuse to check it out!

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon poster
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon poster created by Sony Pictures Classics, Columbia Pictures Film Production Asia, Good Machine International, Edko Films, Zoom Hunt Productions, China Film Co-Production Corp., and Asian Union Film & Entertainment Ltd. Image found at https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0190332/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0.

Things I liked about the film:

The character interactions: Throughout the film, there were several character interactions that took place. This aspect of the overall project was very enjoyable for me to see. One reason was because these interactions shared key components of the story, allowing important details to be expressed and character development to take place. The second reason is how these interactions appeared on screen. Because this cast is talented, it gives the actors and actresses the opportunity to present these interactions in a way that feels believable and sincere. Whether it was the camaraderie between Li Mu Bai and Yu Shu Lien or the heart-felt encounters between Jen Yu and Lo, each interaction enhanced the material for both the characters and the overall story.

 

The martial arts choreography: The martial arts sequences that are featured in this movie were one of the strongest elements of the project! That’s because of how well choreographed each sequence was. Created by Yuen Wo-Ping, each martial arts movement appeared fast, yet smooth. It seemed like every opponent was engaging in a dance, with each one taking turns in the situation. There were times when some the characters looked like they were flying. This made them appear powerful, like their training had helped them gain a super power. The overall technique was precise and well-thought out. This shows how great of a job Yuen Wo-Ping did when it came to planning these sequences!

 

The scenery: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon excels when it comes to the scenery! There were several natural landscapes featured in this film that were simply breath-taking! What helps was how well they were captured on film. Long and establishing shots showed the audience the true magnificence of these locations. The set designs also played a role in making the scenery memorable. Every set appears authentic for the film’s specific time period. They are also well staged, setting up the scene in a visually appealing way. These key ingredients created a cinematic world that felt immersive.

Tiger in Thailand zoo
Tiger image created by Chevanon at freepik.com.  <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/tiger-looking-straight-ahead_999674.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/pattern”>Pattern image created by Chevanon – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The presentation of the subtitles: This is not the first time I’ve reviewed a film that chose to use subtitles. In fact, I have found myself enjoying these movies, such as Les Enfants Terribles and Vampyr. But it’s not the subtitles that were the issue. The color of the subtitles was the flaw, as they were presented in yellow. While it made them easier to see against darker backgrounds, it was difficult to see them against light backgrounds. This was especially the case whenever someone wore a white outfit. To me, I feel that the subtitles should have been presented in the color red. That way, it could have been seen with almost any background.

 

Limited use of martial arts sequences: As I said earlier, I really liked the martial art sequences in this film. However, in the overall project, these sequences were very limited. When I think of a typical martial arts film, I think of it as a part of the action genre, where at least fifty percent of the movie is action-packed. With Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the majority of the film focused on the character and story development. This choice causes the movie to not have that 50/50 balance that I was expecting. I found there to be more dialogue-focused scenes than action-focused scenes.

 

A mystery that was too easy to solve: In Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, there was a mystery surrounding the disappearance of a legendary, priceless sword. Through dialogue and martial arts sequences, it becomes more obvious who the thief is. I’m not going to spoil the reveal if you haven’t the seen the movie. But, shortly after this particular character was introduced, I knew that they were the guilty culprit. Instead of attempting to solve the mystery alongside the characters, I ended up just waiting for the reveal to take place. It made this part of the story less intriguing.

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Traditional Chinese dragon image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/design”>Design vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

I’m always grateful whenever MovieRob invites me to join Genre Grandeur. This event, like almost any blogathon, gives me a good excuse to watch films that I might have never seen otherwise. Like I said in the introduction, I had not seen Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon before. But I’m glad that I finally gave it a chance! This is not just a good martial arts film or a good foreign film. It’s a good film in general! Yes, there were things about it that I wasn’t a fan of, including the ending. But there are components that make me like and appreciate the movie for what it is. I want to thank MovieRob for, once again, inviting me to Genre Grandeur. I also want to thank David, from Blueprint Review, for choosing November’s theme. It gave me a reason to, finally, review a martial arts film for 18 Cinema Lane!

 

Overall score: 7.7 out of 10

 

Do you have a favorite martial arts film? What is your favorite part about these types of films? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen